Google+ Followers

Monday, December 19, 2011

Review: 'The Train of Small Mercies'

1968 just about broke America's heart with assassinations, riots and war protests. After Robert Kennedy was killed in Los Angeles, apparently on the brink of winning the Democratic nomination for the presidency, tens of thousands mourned the loss of promise and felt sorrow for his pregnant widow and other family members.                                                          

The funeral train that carried RFK's body from New York to Washington, D.C., for interment at Arlington National Cemetary became one of those great national events when people come together. It is possible that 2 million people waited along the tracks of the route to pay their respects. For photographs of that journey, there is a poignant archive of Paul Fusco's work.

David Rowell uses the train's voyage as the focal point of his first novel, The Train of Small Mercies, and through the stories of many characters presents a narrative of quiet hope that arrives when least expected. It is not always evident along the journey that any of the characters will see hope, and not everyone has a happy ending. The climax of many characters' stories is melodramatic, especially for two cases when things go drastically wrong at the end.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Liebster Blog Awards: The Winners

Cannot believe I let more than a month go by before fulfilling my obligation in the Liebster Blog Awards. The main point is to pass on the award to five other recipients to spread the word about other book blogs you enjoy.

Here are my winners:

Stu Allen of Winston's Dad, a blog that celebrates fiction translated into English. Stu is not only widely read in world fiction, and brings many deserving authors to my attention, he also has excellent taste in music and film, and as a fellow dog lover always has my highest esteem.

One book blogger who blows me away with his discernment and enthusiasm for excellent writing is the wordish celebrator behind Rob Around Books, whose site always makes me want to turn into a whirling dervish of a reading machine.
Author, smart reader and all-around wonderful fellow David Abrams has a blog I rely on. If you haven't seen The Quivering Pen, please do.

We have similar taste but aren't always reading the same thing, so I enjoy Col Reads for both new and classic choices. Plus, she's also a Europa Challenge blogger. Speaking of ...

I was one of the first to sign on the the Europa Challenge, as it is one of my favorite imprints. How many reviews have I contributed? You're right. But I haven't given up trying to get there and I still want everyone else to discover the incredible range of books through this blog created by two colleagues I hold in the highest admiration: Marie of Boston Bibliophile and Miss Liberty herself.

Winners, I hope you have the chance to pass on the peer appreciation as well.

Thank you again to Emma Hunneyball of In Potentia, another book blogger who I hope you're reading for her lovely insight.

Review: 'Serious Eats'

Ed Levine
Coookbook/Food Guide
November 2011
Clarkson Potter
ISBN: 978-0307720870                                                                    

Part cookbook, part traveling guide, Serious Eats is all food love. Created by the people behind the popular website, this self-style comprehensive guide does a quick decent job of rounding up where to go to find the best good grub and how to go about making it yourself.

The introduction by Ed Levine is a quirky celebration of all things food, but not "foodie", in appreciating great meals, good ingredients and no stuffiness.

Featuring real-world descriptions and gorgeous photography by Robyn Lee, the guide has a defense of oatmeal in the breakfast chapter, pages upon pages of pizza oven investigations, and a burger section that includes discussion of regional variation and bun choice -- as well as acknowledging that American cheese is important to a good burger.

Although more an addition to a well-stocked home culinary library than one of the essential cookbooks, Serious Eats does provide opportunities for fun browsing sessions.

©2011 All Rights Reserved CompuServe Books Reviews and reprinted with permission

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Discovering more: Clarice Lispector

My introduction to Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector was the unfortunate volume, I'm a Box, by Natalia Carrero. In it, an earnest, inquisitive young woman discovers Lispector's writing and tries to become her biggest fan girl in this debut work of fiction. The text itself shies away from calling this a novel and that's an honest assessment. There is no narrative structure, no plot, no conflict outside young Nadila's wishes to be a writer as good as her role model.

In the closing pages, another reason for seeking kinship with the writer is revealed but, as with everything else in this work, nothing comes from it.

Just writing that someone is important to you and quoting from that person doesn't carry much weight. The narrator says she has learned more about herself from the experience of doing this writing, but what that was remains abstract. Lispector wrote abstract pieces herself, in addition to journalistic pieces, but the allure of her work isn't made clear in I'm a Box.

Communicating how she has grown in self-knowledge, and what that might mean to her future, or communicating why Lispector should be read today would have made for a successful work. What is communicated is the earnestness and sincerity of the writer's quest, but the results of that quest remain out of reach.
Fortunately, I discovered this morning that there may be more to Lispector's work. Volume 199 of The Paris Review includes two very short stories by Lispector, One Hundred Years of Forgiveness, and A Story of Great Love.                                                     

One Hundred Years is a quick remembrance of something the narrator did as a child -- steal single roses from gardens and, later, berries. How the idea to suddenly steal a beautiful rose, to possess such beauty for herself, and how both roses and berries are beautiful and nourishing for a fleeting time, give this very short work a gravitas that goes well beyond what a young girl does on impulse.

A Story of Great Love works similar magic in the tale of another young girl who loves the hens in her yard. Told in third person, this short story also reveals a greater truth through the prosaic circumstances of what inevitably happens to chickens. When it comes to both domestic fowl and their keepers, Lispector writes, "A hen is alone in the world."

Just as Lispector's two short stories go from the simple and everyday to greater truths, my reading experience here has shown me once again a greater truth: Sometimes an introduction is not the best way to judge what a writer, or any other person, has to offer to make my world richer.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Review: 'Wonderstruck'

Children's Fiction
September 2011
Scholastic Press
ISBN: 978-0-545-02789-2                                                     

Ben is a boy now living with his aunt, uncle and two cousins since his single mother died in an accident. His aunt and uncle talk about selling his mother's house next door on a Minnesota lakeshore. Lonely, he sneaks over to his old home one night when he sees a light. It's his cousin Janet, dressing in his mother's clothes and playing her old music. He talks his cousin into letting him stay in the house alone for a bit. Ben discovers a note in one of his mother's books that leads him to believe he might be able to talk to the father he's never met. Deaf in one ear, he dials the phone just as lightning strikes the house. He's now totally deaf. Ben is hospitalized, but sneaks out to take a bus to New York to see if he can find his father.

While this story in prose takes place in the 1970s, Selznick intersperses it with detailed drawings, in the same style as his Invention of Hugo Cabret, of a  young girl in the 1920s. She, too, is deaf and sneaks away from her house to watch a silent movie. The girl, Rose, runs away to take the ferry from Hoboken to New York City, where she tracks down the star of the silent movie to a stage, rehearsing a play. It's her mother, and she is ashamed of her deaf daughter.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Review: 'Essential Pepin'

ESSENTIAL PEPIN: More Than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in FoodBy Jacques Pepin
October 2011
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
ISBN: 978-0547232799

Even with decades of being on television, writing cookbooks and serving thousands at his restaurants, Jacques Pepin may not have the same name recognition or star power as more recently arrived celebrity chefs. That should change, however, with the release of his Essential Pepin and an accompanying PBS series.

Essential Pepin is no quickly turned-out scrapbook filled with color photographs to capitalize on a TV program, even though there is a companion series. As the subtitle says, it's "More Than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food". This is a comprehensive reference work for home cooks from neophyte to foodie. Everything is written down simply and completely.

There was not a single recipe that I didn't think I couldn't tackle. For example, his Cranberry Bread is a rustic bread designed to go with meats for a hearty winter meal. As shown in the first photo, milk and butter are combined over low heat, then set aside.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Review: 'Also Known As Rowan Pohi'

By Ralph Fletcher
November 2011
Clarion Books
ISBN: 978-0547572086

In one memorable M*A*S*H episode, Hawkeye and the crew invented Captain John Tuttle, a remarkable man who had to “die” when a real officer wanted to honor him. Ralph Fletcher uses the same premise to explore how a teenage boy comes to terms with himself and his name in Also Known as Rowan Pohi.

Bobby Steele doesn't have the best life around – his mom left after his father did a horrific thing to her. Bobby's sophomore year is about to start, he has a younger brother starting kindergarten to watch out for, his father goes to AA meetings and work and that's about it. Bobby also has the burden of having the same name as his father, the name splashed across the local news.

One afternoon at IHOP, the snooty kids at a nearby booth leave an application for the esteemed private school they'll be attending. Whitestone has a new multi-million dollar planetarium; Bobby's high school can't afford to have the parking lot refinished. As a lark, the boys fill out the application. Rowan's last name is the name of the restaurant backwards. He's a go-getter from the extremely poor town of Pinon, New Mexico.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Liebster Blog Award

Many thanks to the wonderful Emma Hunneyball of In Potentia for nominating Ye Olde Humble Blog for the Liebster Blog Award! It's a lovely way to let fellow book lovers and bloggers know about other great blogs. As Emma wrote in her lovely note (found in the comments section of the review of The Mirador):

Hi Lynne                                                        

I was recently awarded the "Liebster Blog Award" and when prompted to share it with five other blogs I immediately thought of yours.

I'm a big fan of your book reviews, which are honest, varied and interesting.



I'm chuffed to be recognized by a fellow reader whose opinion I esteem as a discerning reader. In these days when niche markets and pigeonholes are the norm, it's a thrill to be recognized by a fellow blogger for refusing to stay in a pigeonhole or be stuck within the confines of a singular niche.

And when it comes to noting how lovely such recognition is, I cannot say better than Emma did at her blog, In Potentia:

Peer-to-peer awards are so important in this world: They let us support each other, reach out to each other and remind us that when we feel like our posts are disappearing into a vacuum of apathy, that someone out there is reading!

Check back in the next few days to see how I've chosen to pass this lovely award to in honoring more peers in this invigorating community.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Review: 'The Mirador'

THE MIRADOR: Dreamed Memories of Irene Nemirovsky by her Daughter
By Elisabeth Gille
Fictionalized biography
September 2011
NYRB Classics
ISBN: 978-1590174449                                                                

Elisabeth Gille was five years old when her mother was taken to the death camps and didn't return. Her father suffered the same fate. She and her older sister survived when a German officer saw the older girl's blonde hair and told their governess they were not taking any children that night. The governess understood. She and the children disappeared.

Decades later, when she was older than her mother ever became, and although she remembered nothing about her, Elisabeth tried to see the world through her mother's eyes. That attempt is The Mirador. Her mother was the once acclaimed, then forgotten, then reclaimed, writer Irene Nemirovsky. In pre-WWII France, Nemirovsky was greatly admired for her novels such as David Golder, the story of a Jewish banker who loses, then regains, a fortune. Reactions to this novel and Nemirovsky's being published in right-wing journals before her death made her a controversial figure as well as a celebrated writer.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review: 'The Last Dragon'

By Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Rebecca Guay
September 2011
Dark Horse Comics
ISBN: 978-1595827982

Dragons once ruled the islands on the edge of the land where men lived. But men settled on the islands and eventually conquered the flying serpents. For the last 200 years, men believed there were no more dragons. But they were wrong.

The first person to disappear is the healer, who had a timely conversation with his daughter Tansy about dragonsbane just before he makes a decent dinner for the dragon. Tansy is his youngest daughter and the one who will become a healer as well.

In true fairy tale fashion, she has two older sisters, who fill Mary and Martha roles as worker and dreamer. They and other villagers react to the dragon's menace in ways that show, in true fairy tale fashion, how fear makes people foolish.

Three boys are sent to scour inland for a hero to vanquish the dragon. They find someone, all right,  but Lancot isn't quite what he seems (just as his name isn't quite Lancelot, he isn't quite heroic when we meet him). But because this is a fairy tale and it is written by Jane Yolen, Lancot and Tansy find a way to slay the dragon.

Jane Yolen's words and Rebecca Guay's art combine superbly for a richly detailed story. Dark Horse shows once again why it is a serious publisher in a field that encompasses a wide range of storytelling themes and styles with publications such as this. And Jane Yolen shows once again why she is one of the grand storytellers of our time.

©2011 All Rights Reserved CompuServe Books Reviews and reprinted with permission

Monday, October 24, 2011

Review: 'Scorch City'

By Toby Ball
September 2011
St Martins
ISBN: 978-0312580834

Fifteen years after the events in The Vaults, Toby Ball's brilliant noirish debut, his Scorch City follow-up takes an even darker turn. War veterans have returned, broken in spirit and body, while a more menacing threat worries some. A Red menace, that is.

Hovering over Scorch City's strands of a burgeoning civil rights movement, religious leaders and police corruption is the paranoia of people scared by the idea of communism and, even worse, the idea that someone might be a Commie in secret.

And a secret is how the story begins. A blonde woman's body is found washed up on the river near the Uhuru Community, an African-American enclave of shanties set apart from the bustling city. Its leaders of a Communist faction within the community contact influential columnist Frank Frings to contact in turn incorruptible policeman Piet Westermann to do the unthinkable. Westermann -- the true blue Lieut -- agrees to move the body so attention is turned away from the community even as the investigation into the young woman's death proceeds.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Review: 'Breadcrumbs'

By Anne Ursu                                                                    
Middle grade/YA fiction
September 2011
Walden Pond Press
ISBN: 978-0062015051

Hazel is a precocious fifth grader who believes in magic and the power of stories, and who relishes time with her best friend, Jack, more than anything. During recess after a particularly intense snowstorm, Jack gets hurt. Then he changes, Then he disappears in Anne Ursu's brilliant and enchanting Breadcrumbs.

What happened is that an imp made a magical mirror, flew it toward the sun to take a look at the entire Earth, and got too close (shades of Icarus!) The mirror shattered and shards fell across the world. One piece fell into Jack's eye. He is whisked away by a Snow Queen who offers him Turkish Delight. (When Jack says, “Huh?” the queen replies that it was “Just a little joke”.)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

On rereading

While it's remained high summer in our valley, with temps still in the mid-90s last week, autumn looks a long way off. But I've found a way to turn the leaves their brilliant colors, anticipate a bit of frost on the pumpkin and commemorate the lengthening evenings. And that's by rereading what has become my "autumn" book, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. (To add to this year's pleasures of rereading, we'll be discussing the novel in early October at 4 Mystery Addicts, a marvelous mystery-reading online community.)

I don't remember what season it was when I first read this uber-detective novel. But over the years, turning to this story of Rachel Verinder's unlucky birthday present, hero Franklin Blake, the intrepid Sgt. Cuff, tragic Rosanna Spearman and supremely assured narrator Gabriel Betteredge has meant a return to slower times. To me, slower times is synonymous with those longer evenings. It means removing myself from the frenetic, frantic daily schedule of the workday and TV-online overload of information. And I love it. Slower times, longer evenings, time to think, to savor, to make my own meaning out of what I read.

Knowing what happens in the story doesn't diminish my pleasure in reading the novel. It's like watching a favorite movie again. I take as great a delight in Gabriel lecturing us about Robinson Crusoe as the font of wisdom as I do in Bogey and Claude Rains discussing Rick's reasons for coming to Casablanca ("I like to think you killed a man; it's the romantic in me.")

I've also found different aspects of the story stand out to me in the different rereadings. Rosanna, for example, didn't have as great an impact on me when I was young as she did after I'd loved and lost myself. And the first time it hit me what a nasty old prune Drusilla Clack is and how her interference reminds me of certain "I know better than you" types in modern society, well, it wasn't the first time I read the book.

So here's to the pleasures of rereading. Whether it's rediscovering a once well-loved but long-neglected favorite or reading a book you know as well as you know your parents' most-often related tales, just knowing the outcome is only one layer in the joy of reading.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Review: 'Northwest Angle'

By William Kent Krueger
Crime fiction
August 2011
ISBN: 978-1439153956

Cork O'Connor and surviving members of his family have been through enough heartache. Aiming for healing the family, even if he cannot make it whole again, Cork takes everyone on a houseboat cruise on the Lake of the Woods. When an unforeseen storm overpowers them, Cork worries he may have completely destroyed them.

The storm is a derecho, a windstorm so abrupt it can be seen approaching as a line of destruction, accompanied by thunderstorms, seen just before it hits. The O'Connors are separated during the storm. Daughter Jenny washes up on one of the myriad small islands on the huge lake, which straddles the U.S.-Canadian border. The seriousness of her situation is seen immediately when she puts a wounded wolf out of its misery with a rock. She finds a cabin that will provide shelter and even has provisions. It also has a baby and a murdered young woman. Jenny and Cork are reunited only to go on the run with the baby as an expert marksman lands on the island and starts hunting for the infant.

At the same time, Cork's other children, sister-in-law and her husband are separated by the storm and must find their way back to each other. After what Krueger has done in the past, there's no guarantee that everyone will survive.

Just when it looks like the novel may turn into pure thriller as Jenny and Cork outwit their hunter, the novel takes another turn. More characters come into play. Many are not what they seem, while others may turn out to play an important role in the future of the O'Connor family. What comes to the fore about most of the characters is how they feel about faith, and how their faith controls them or inspires them. The difference between control and inspiration is used to stunning effect. Krueger does an adept job at demonstrating what separates genuine faith from the kind of mindset that perverts faith.

While some readers may turn away from exploring any topic not related to forensics or a storyline that incorporates suspense and thoughtful presentation of the different ways faith affects people, Northwest Angle provdes too rich a reading experience to miss. Krueger folds the various characters' belief structures into what they do and why, providing motive not only for the bad guys, but also for why Team Good Guys do what they do. Krueger does not present screeds or sermons, but instead shows rather than tells the measure of each character.

At the same time, Northwest Angle has the feel of a transitional novel. Perhaps now all the O'Connors can move forward, and Cork can spend more time on a case removed from their concerns.

©2011 All Rights Reserved CompuServe Books Reviews and reprinted with permission

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Review: 'The Night Circus"

By Erin Morgenstern                                      
Literary fiction
September 2011
ISBN: 978-0385534635

A story, a fable, an enchantment, however one can describe The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern's magical and profound novel, it is a richly rewarding reading experience.

Le Cirque des Rêves arrives without announcement and leaves without warning. It is only open at night. It is mysterious yet welcoming, open to infinite explorations yet providing exactly what its visitors seek. The circus is the stage upon which two aged magicians set their pawns to play out the latest phase of a high-stakes game, and it is their world.

Celia is the daughter of the magician Prospero, although he doesn't know of her existence until she is left with him as a young child. Prospero's old foe, Mr. A.H__, scours orphanages until he finds a boy he can train. Both Celia and Marco grow up in Dickensian horror, sacrificing everything to the arts of illusion. The circus entices other people who contribute to its embellishments. Whether they know it or not, they are all part of the game.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

In Progress: Elissa Schappell's 'Blueprints for Building Better Girls'

Another teaser. I'm tearing through Elissa Schappell's BLUEPRINTS FOR BUILDING BETTER GIRLS, which will be published this coming week. It's a collection of short stories that are connected on occasion.

All of the stories have been strong, far stronger than I expected for a book that initially reminded me of Melissa Bank's GIRLS GUIDE TO HUNTING AND FISHING. (I quite liked that book but realize it was a trifle, not a full-bodied stew.)

I've just finished "Aren't You Dead Yet", one of the longer stories. And I'm having trouble drawing a deep breath. This is one of the best stories I've read since The New Yorker originally published Annie Proulx's "Brokeback Mountain".

On the surface level, this story is about a young woman who is taken in by a young man, a would-be serious artist. He's the type who believes the world owes him everything because he is an artist. As a no-longer-young woman, it's so easy to see he's full of it, a user, a poser, and she's excusing him, wanting to believe in his talent.

And then the story just gets deeper. No spoilers, but oh my goodness. I've got only Monday before the pdf file for review goes poof! but I still haven't caught my breath to continue reading. (And, yes, I decided about 100 pages ago that I must buy a hard copy to read again in the years to come.)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Murakami's 'Town of Cats'

"Town of Cats", an excerpt from Haruki Murakami's upcoming 1Q84 published in The New Yorker's Sept 5 issue, is a lovely example of the world envisioned by this writer of sweet, strange and oddly comforting tales. Tengo, a young man apparently adrift in the world, decides to take a train ride to see his father for the first time in two years.

The elderly man is suffering from dementia and is esconsed in a comfortable care facility by the sea. He raised Tengo on his own, forcing the child to accompany him all day each Sunday as he collected subscription fees for the state-operated radio and television from those most reluctant to pay. Tengo is deeply ashamed.

His father sees things differently. He came from an impoverished family in the country, homesteaded in Manchuria and was the only one in his group to make it back to Japan before the Soviet invasion. His fee-collecting job came from the only person he ever knew with any influence, and he excelled at it. The job is the only thing he excelled at in life.

On the train ride, Tengo reads a fairy tale about a man on a train who stops at an apparently abandoned town where cats come out at night, running the place the way humans would in the daytime. The tale has a Twilight Zone aspect to it, one that Tengo applies to his own life when he tries to talk to his taciturn father.

The conversation between this estranged father and son is vintage Murakami. There are no surprises as Tengo voices what he has long suspected about the meaning of the one memory he has of his mother. It is in the character voicing what he has long suspected that the heart of Murakami's philosophy comes out.

In distilled form, that philosophy is knowing life is in control, not you, but that doesn't mean you can't give up heart. And, oh yes, there will be cats.

While 1Q84 won't be published in English until October, the story is online at The New Yorker site.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Europa Challenge Giveaway

Over at the wonderful Europa Challenge, publisher Europa Editions has made available a copy of Alexander Maksik's novel You Deserve Nothing for the blog's first giveaway.

Open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only; you have until midnight, September 1 to enter via the form at Europa Challenge. Europa Editions will mail the book directly to the winner.

So while I get back on track with my own Europa Challenge reviews, go enter the giveaway for the chance to read another of this fascinating publisher's books.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Review: 'The Return of Captain John Emmett'

By Elizabeth Speller
Historical crime fiction                                                                                
July 2011
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
ISBN: 978-0547511696

The end of World War I was a traumatic time for Britain, even though they won. Hundreds of thousands of men died, and more than a million came back wounded. Family dynamics changed, the roles of women changed, everyone who survived sought ways to carry on and cope with a world that had changed around them. At the same time, the Golden Age in mystery fiction began.

Elizabeth Speller brings all of these elements together in her debut novel, The Return of Captain John Emmett. It's a wonderful story that sheds light on the engimatic title character, the narrator who searches for the truth about Capt. Emmett's last days, the changes in British society and what happens when people think they're doing favors by not telling the truth.

Laurence Bartram is one young officer trying to put his life back together after the year. His wife and newborn son died while he was off fighting. Back in London, he's trying to write a book but is as diffident about it as he is about everything else. He learns of the suicide of a former school mate, John Emmett, who returned from the war a broken man. John's sister wants to know more about John's final days, so she enlists Laurie's help. Since he's so obviously at loose ends, and wants to be a decent chap, he agrees to see what he can find out.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review: 'Baltimore: The Plague Ships'

Story by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden
Art by Ben Stenbeck
Colors by Dave Stewart/Letters by Clem Robins
Historical horror graphic novel
June 2011
Dark Horse Comics
ISBN: 978-1595826732

Delving deeper into the story begun in Baltimore or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden bring their considerable storytelling skills to tell a cracking good ghost tale and, not coincidentally, give readers reason to care about their lonely hero.

Lord Henry Baltimore is not just a soldier in the Great War. Fate forces him to become a champion for humanity in the battle gainst Haigus, king of the vampires, after an unwanted battlefield encounter. A plague falls upon Baltimore's world that greets him in his travels and made it home from the war before he did.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Review: 'Shut Your Eyes Tight'

By John Verdon
Crime fiction
July 2011
ISBN: 978-0307717894

Dave Guerney's second outing follows the same lines as his debut, Think of a Number. Guerney, a celebrated homicide detective whose wife wants him to stay retired, is tantalized by a seemingly impossible crime scene. In this case, a bridegroom enters a tiny cottage at his wedding ceremony to discover his new bride has been decapitated. It's all on videotape, yet the person who the victim went to see is never seen leaving the cottage.

Verdon's formula continues with Guerney promising his patient, passive-aggressive wife that he isn't cheating on her with his love of detection and that the quiet country life she adores is just what he wants as well. The reader knows Guerney's lying the minute he meets the psychiatric genius who was the bridegroom. He wants to step in and solve the case.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

In Progress: Welty & Maxwells' 'Your heart down on paper'

One of the great joys of reading the letters of great writers is seeing the delight they have as readers. All spring and so far this summer I've been savoring What There is to Say We Have Said, a sampling of the letters Eudora Welty and William and Emmy Maxwell wrote to each other for more than 50 years. The friendship began when the Maxwells met Welty one New York evening, loved her storytelling, and Maxwell helped bring her short stories to The New Yorker.

Here are three snippets that give an idea about the way these loving, warm-hearted people wrote to each other over the years (in between much talk of food, roses and when they would see each other):

It's as if you'd put your heart down on paper. if I was sitting up to a peat fire & listening to the voice of a master storyteller. I could hear your voice all the way through and at the same time all the characters' voices were their own.
-- Emily Maxwell to Eudora Welty on May 15, 1970, about the novel Losing Battles

I'm so glad her rose (Maxwell daughter Brookie) bloomed. ... I think that's what your stories do, too -- coax the flower. Their gentleness is a form of concentration, and their strength comes out of what was intuitive always, -- in the end they stand unprotected -- that's the bloom.
-- Eudora Welty to William Maxwell on Jan. 14, 1972

When you analyze one of his stories there is a faint double exposure: I see you seeing him. And it is doubly moving.
-- William Maxwell to Eudora Welty on Sept. 17, 1977, on an essay she wrote about Chekhov

And this after they have been writing to each other for more than 30 years. It's a balm to read such lovely things that they say to each other, and makes me wish I could drop everything else and spend the rest of the summer not in studies for work, but in the writings of Welty and Maxwell. But some day ...

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Europa Challenge is on!

The Europa Challenge logo to the right signals an exciting opportunity to explore the ficiton of one of my favorite imprints. Begun by two book people I respect and adore, Marie of Boston Bibliophile and the one and only Miss Liberty, the Europa Challenge Blog has a variety of challenges and will be a celebration of individual titles and the entire catalog of the imprint.

The way that the name of Europa Editions came to my attention symbolizes exactly what I treasure about it: I realized that the same publisher was the source of both dark, well-written crime fiction that had been translated into English, and one of the most fascinating, satisfying novels I've ever read: Jane Gardam's Old Filth.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Review: 'The Ranger'

By Ace Atkins
Crime fiction
June 2011
G.P. Putnam's Sons
ISBN: 978-0-399157486

Quinn Colson hasn't been to his rural Mississippi home in years. And by the time this visit is over, every reason he had to stay away presents itself.

The initial reason for his return is his uncle's funeral. Uncle Hamp not only was the county sheriff, he was the one who walked into the woods to find a young Quinn who was lost in them for two weeks. It isn't until after the funeral that Quinn learns his uncle killed himself. The new law, an old high school buddy of Quinn's, is ready to settle for that, but Quinn isn't. Neither is tomboy-turned-deputy Lillie.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Review: 'Tigerlily's Orchids'

By Ruth Rendell
Crime fiction
June 2011
ISBN: 978-1439150344

A quiet little corner of London may look like the kind of place where nothing ever happens. But Ruth Rendell knows better in her latest stand-alone novel, Tigerlily's Orchids. Not much is as it seems, other things are what they seem, only more so, and it never pays to make assumptions.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Review: 'The Reservoir'

By John Milliken Thompson
Historical fiction
June 2011
Other Press
ISBN: 978-1590514443

Although it's a well-known axiom to not judge a book by its cover, in this case it is all right. John Milliken Thompson's debut novel, The Reservoir, has as its cover a gorgeous, sprawling tree that hasn't leafed out, with an amber wash that harkens back to another time. It is desolate and nearly devoid of life. The cover is based on something that exists, yet has been turned into something else.

That's an accurate description of the novel. It's based on a true story, but Thompson, a nonfiction and short story writer, has taken the bare bones of what was known and turned it into a stark, sad story that is steeped in old-timey feel.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Review: 'The Dark Enquiry'

THE DARK ENQUIRY                                                        
By Deanna Raybourn
Historical crime fiction
June 2011
Mira Books
ISBN: 978-0-7783-1237
Lady Julia Grey thinks she has settled well into married life with the dashing, enigmatic and brilliant Nicholas Brisbane. She blows out windows in his consulting roms experimenting with explosives while he tries to protect her by not revealing what cases he's working on. She insists on playing a greater role as helpmeet. He plans outings for her in the country to help her brother Plum, Brisbane's latest apprentice, find some missing jewels.

There's a lot of protecting and going behind each other's backs in displays of love and competitiveness. It's bound to come to a head.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review: 'Jane Austen: A Life Revealed'

By Catherine Reef
YA biography
June 2011
Clarion Books
ISBN: 978-0547370217

Young adult readers can be especially passionate about their favorites, as has been seen when Harry Potter and Twilight took off in popularity. Transferring that loyalty to other books that are at least a bit similar has not always been successful, although the vampire subgenre remains healthy for both YA and adult paranormal romance genres. Those who hope interest in a great romance could lead to young readers discovering Jane Austen don't often meet with success. In addition to the language barrier, there are the slower plots and, let's face it, no broken headboards.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Review: 'Graveminder'

By Melissa Marr
May 2011
William Morrow
ISBN: 978-0061826870

Rebekkah has spent most of her young life running away from the town where she lived briefly as a teen. The years weren't many but they were filled with love from her stepfather and grandmother. Then her mom split with her stepdad and she's pretty much been on the move ever since.

Until she receives a late-night call that Maylene, the woman who became her grandmother, has died. Rebekkah heads right back to Clayville, noticing that her ever-present feelings of anxiety disappear when she crosses the city line. Even though she's with Byron, the boy she kissed once, betraying her late stepsister, and even though she and Byron have the biggest "oh we shouldn't" but you know they're lying thoughts. The anxiety even stays away when she discovers Maylene was murdered.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Review: 'The Girl in the Green Raincoat'

By Laura Lippman
Mystery (Tess Monaghan)
January 2011
William Morrow

Tess Monaghan has been confined to bedrest during her unexpected pregnancy. She turns into Jimmy Stewart's character in Rear Window, watching the world pass by. The daily appearance of a young woman in a green raincoat and accompanying greyhound catches her attention. When they fail to appear one day, Tess gets involved.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Review: 'Drawing Conclusions'

By Donna Leon
April 2011
Crime fiction
Atlantic Monthly Press
ISBN: 978-0802119797

Commissario Guido Brunetti has seen many kinds of crimes in his long career, giving him a deep knowledge of human behavior which he can use to ascertain guilt or innocence. But in Drawing Conclusions, the 20th Brunetti novel by Donna Leon, the Venetian copper will be surprised by the people he meets and impressed by his colleagues.

The story begins with translator Anna Maria Giusti arriving home early from a weekend with her boyfriend and his closed family. She discovers the body of a neighbor. Signora Altavilla, a quiet, dignified older woman, died of a heart attack. But there is a bit of blood and a radiator nearby. Did she hit her head on the radiator? Or was she pushed into it? Are those bruises on her? What at first looked straightforward may be more complicated.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Review: 'A Widow's Story'

By Joyce Carol Oates
February 2011
ISBN: 978-0062015532

For 48 years and 25 days, Joyce Carol Oates thought of herself not as the author Joyce Carol Oates, but as Joyce Smith, wife of Raymond Smith, professor and editor of The Ontario Review. That thinking, that life, is abruptly shattered in the middle of a February night in 2008 when she receives a call from the hospital where she had taken her pneumonia-stricken husband a few days earlier, summoning her to get there quicky because her husband was still alive.

When she got there, he wasn't.

The guilt, the grief, the bewilderment, the anger and the depression of those first few hours, days and weeks are chronicled in A Widow's Story. The anguish is unrelenting and the chronicling deal with both the minutiae and large-scale ramifications to daily living and to one's sense of self and value of living.

Reaction to the memoir has centered on comparing this work to Joan Didion's brilliant memoir when she lost both her husband and daughter, and to Oates's remarrying soon after her first husband's death.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Time and demand

Deep into a required continuing education portfolio, what it has robbed me most of is time -- time with others, time with books, time to even post here on the blog. The rewards have been considerable -- the people in my cohort and I have formed a strong bond, and the reflecting demanded by the portfolio's questions will add strength to my teaching in the library.
But the less time I have to read right now, the more I ache to be able to fall into the kind of well-formed writing that creates its own world. That is the kind of writing found in the books I've been able to dip into these days.

First is What There is to Say We Have Said, a homey collection of letters among Eudora Welty, William Maxwell, The New Yorker editor and writer, and his wife, Emily. Their caring about each other, their families and, oh, their roses, is sweet and uplifting. They show their considerable qualities at being decent, thoughtful human beings.

Those same qualities are evident in a short piece by Maxwell published in The New Yorker's winter fiction issue of December 28, 1998-January 4, 1999 (see, it pays to keep old magazines around until they've been read). "The Room Outside" describes that magical spot on the window where many a child has seen both through the glass to the outside world and a reflection of the room behind, now presenting itself as being part of that outside world. The completeness, the wholeness of his home is conveyed by Maxwell. Although his family moved from his childhood home, and he and his bride set up housekeeping in more than one place before settling, that dual picture stayed with him.

Visiting his childhood home again after many years, he grumbles about how it isn't the same at all and how nothing is right any more. Except, except for that remembrance of life seen through the window. He concludes:

That room outside, super-imposed on the snow; the reflection of the lamp, the table and the chair where my mother likes to sit when she sews, the white bookcase, the Oriental rugs, the man standing at the fireplace and the little boy peering out at the night -- that image that was nothing more than a trick of the window glass -- is indestructible.

And so are friendships like the ones I'm able to be making stronger now, the other friendships that endure despite our not being closely tied together right now, and that bond with the worlds created with love and read with great appreciation. Those bonds are indestructible as well, no matter what other demands are placed on the hours of the day right now. They will last through time and be there for the appreciating whenever time's demands ease.

The contrast between knowing that reward awaits when time allows, and knowing that time will never be the same, is an important thread in Joyce Carol Oates's A Widow's Story, another book I'm reading right now. Her guilt at not being there the moment her beloved husband of nearly 50 years died, the time it is taking to try to keep up with the demands of new widowhood, let alone the trash accumulation, the time that she craves with friends and to be alone, the time to get out of the house and teaching and the time to return to that nest, are both a record of what she endured and a meditation on what ways to occupy one's time matter in the long run. The duality of her writing of her experiences and taking a step back to reflect on them is fascinating.

And something I would reflect on more tonight, except that there is writing of my own that should be addressed. The deadline is fast approaching to get more turned in and I cannot ignore that demand.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Review: 'Daughters-in-Law'

By Joanna Trollope
April 2011
ISBN- 978-1-4516-1838-9

Joanna Trollope's books have been derided for years by those who dismiss the homely tales as "Aga sagas", as if tales of heart, hearth and home were beneath readers and writers.

But the crazier the world gets, the more there are times when quiet compassion for the vagaries of the human condition is balm for the reader. This time, like every other, that is exactly what Trollope delivers.

Monday, April 4, 2011

In Progress: 'What There is to Say We Have Said'

This spring break I'm spending time with Eudora Welty, whose writing I've loved for years, and William Maxwell, whose work I now plan to glom. The Southern chronicler of human foible and The New Yorker editor/novelist were friends for decades. Many of their letters, as well as some from Maxwell's wife Emily, are gathered in What There Is To Say We Have Said: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

The introduction by Welty friend and biographer Suzanne Marrs, who edited this collection, sets the loveliest tone about friendship and discoveries that friends want to share with each other over the years about their own writing, each other's writing, books, roses, the places they travel. Marrs also begins by quoting Welty's own introduction to the famed Norton Book of Friendship. It brings to mind long-lasting friendships formed online, where we put ideas, hopes, dreams and disappointments into words to each other every day:

All letters, old and now, are the still-existing parts of a life. To read them now is to be present when some discovery of truth -- or perhaps untruth, some flash of light -- is just occurring. ... To come upon a personal truth of a human being, however little known, and now gone forever, is in some way to admit him to our friendship.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Review: 'When Tito Loved Clara'

By Jon Michaud
Literary fiction
March 2011
Algonquin Books
ISBN: 978-1565129498

Some novels are built to read at break-neck speed, to rush through page after page, to be gobbled up without pausing to chew well. When Tito Loved Clara, the first novel by The New Yorker librarian Jon Michaud, is not one of them. No, this is a novel to savor, to want to live in for days and days, to learn all about these characters that they will reveal.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Review: 'The Mockingbirds'

YA Fiction
November 2010
Little, Brown and Company
ISBN: 978-0-316-09053-7

Alex Patrick is a busy junior at an exclusive Providence, R.I., boarding school. But studies, her spring project, even her beloved music, take second place to the aftermath of her date rape by a fellow student. When she tells a roomate, the school's underground student justice system takes over.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

SHOTSMAG CONFIDENTIAL: In for a Penny, In for a Pound

Ali Karim, a discerning crime fiction enthusiast, has a great post today about the wonderful Louise Penny:

SHOTSMAG CONFIDENTIAL: In for a Penny, In for a Pound

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Review: 'Demonglass'

By Rachel Hawkins
YA Paranormal
March 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4231-2131-2

Sophie Mercer made it through her first intense year at Hex Hall in the YA series of the same name. She discovered she wasn't just a witch; she is one of two demons in the world. The other is her absentee father. And life at Hex Hall, the school for wayward magicals, was not magical. She was attacked, she fought back, her crush turned out to be a demon hunter and is now wanted by her side, the Prodigium.

Just as it looks like things will be back to kinda, sorta normal, Daddy shows up and whisks Sophie off to England for the summer. Coming along are her best friend, sweet little lesbian vampire Jenna, and school caretaker Cal. In reality, he's quite gifted with healing power, makes plants grow like crazy and was bethrothed to Sophie by their parents when they were children. Since he knows about crush Archer, that's rather awkward.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: 'The Ghosts of Belfast'

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two teaser sentences from somewhere on that page

Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.

Today's teaser is from a brutal and intense crime fiction novel I'm reading for a book discussion at 4 Mystery Addicts, a fabulous online group of mystery fans:

The Merc's big engine rumbled into life, and McKenna pulled away. Fegan took one glance from the back window and saw the twelve watching from the pavement.

-- The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville

The twelve are the ghosts of people Fegan has killed as an Irish Republican thug.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Review: 'Cryer's Cross'

©2011 All Rights Reserved CompuServe Books Reviews

By Lisa McMann
YA Horror thriller
February 2011
Simon's Pulse
ISBN: 978-1416994817

Life for Kendall Fletcher is a very specific, very controlled routine. It's the only way she can function with her OCD ready to spin out of control with any change to that. But life is not going to remain quiet in her tiny hometown of Cryer's Cross, Montana, after classmate Tiffany Quinn disappears.

Months later, Tiffany has not been forgotten but life does go on. Summer is over and school is starting back up. The one-room high school class, divided by sections into year, has a larger enrollment when a brother and sister arrive. Jacian and Marlena have come to town with their parents to help their aging grandfather. Jacian is very surly, as befits a dark romantic hero, leaving his girlfriend and great soccer team behind.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

#mmge Middlemarch Prelude - Chapter 3

These are raw notes recording passages I found worth pondering and my ideas through a Twitter group read of George Eliot's masterpiece Middlemarch. To follow group tweets, we're using the hashtag #mmge for Middlemarch George Eliot.

Here's what I noted in the Prelude and first three chapters:

The grand Victorian look at a small town, people living down foolish impulses and stubborness, George Eliot's Middlemarch, begins with a prelude that has always struck me as unusual. A Victorian author living in sin begins her masterpiece writing about Saint Theresa of Avila. Whatever for?

Well, it does make sense when the saint's life is viewed through the particular lens Eliot employs. What if a person wanted to live a life she deemed worth living, carrying a torch for lofty ideals and ready to sacrifice the rewards of everyday life if it means becoming the foundation, the means by which a great goal is attained? What if all that yearning was for naught, if there was no lofty boulevard, only side streets and dead ends on the way to glory?

That's our heroine, Dorothea.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: 'When Tito Loved Clara'

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two teaser sentences from somewhere on that page

Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.

That is the way things stayed until high school, when in a process as mysterious and unmeasurable as the growth of fingernails, she re-emerged from the general population of girls to become, first, a girl and, then, the girl. ... Between classes he looked for her, and when she did appear from the throngs in the halls, he trailed behind her, floating in the wake of her smell -- of gardenias and candy -- like a cartoon character following the scent of a freshly baked pie.

-- "When Tito Loved Clara" by Jon Michaud, coming in March from Algonquin Books, page 31

Friday, February 18, 2011

It's #fridayreads time again

One of the most surprising things I've learned about Twitter is what a wonderful community builder it actually is -- in just months I've become a member of several communities with fun, fascinating people accomplished in the areas of society and culture I'm interested in.

Among the best is the amazing book community. It is erudite, welcome, goofy and diverse. It's easy to be involved too. Start with #fridayreads -- the "what are you reading?" tweets about books, audiobooks, magazines, cereal boxes, you name it. If you're reading it, tweet it and include the hashtag #fridayreads to be part of the wonderful @bookmaven weekend starter. There are prizes, and I've been fortunate enough to win one, but what's really rewarding is that #fridayreads is not snobbish anywhere on the genre/lit fiction spectrum and that it dramatically demonstrates that there are people who still love reading for its own sake.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Review: 'A Lonely Death'

By Charles Todd
January 2011
William Morrow
ISBN: 978-0-172619-4

One by one, WWI veterans in a small village are murdered. Alone in the wee hours of the morning as farmers or brewers, they are garrotted with the identity disc of a soldier left in their mouths. The names on the discs are not theirs. Why are they being targeted? Why are other men's names placed in their mouths? Was there anything that happened during the war that led to being murdered afterward? Or before that, when they were all lads in the village?

Haunted Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge gets the case, although not everyone on the scene or at the Yard wants him there. As always, Rutledge also is dealing with the voice of Hamish, a man he admired who he had shot for desertion during the Great War. And he is dealing not only with Hamish, but also with the knowledge that he has strong feelings for a woman who may or may not care for him. A retiring superior leaves him with an unsolved mystery that Rutledge also cannot let go of. There are the usual attempts from his enemies at Scotland Yard and other prickly police that not only get in his way from investigating, but also land Rutledge in deep trouble.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Review & Giveaway: 'Bonded by Blood'

By Laurie London
Paranormal romance
February 2011
HQN Books
ISBN: 978-0373775446

When Mackenzie Foster-Shaw spots an odd clump of leaves in a country cemetary while out photographing possible film location sites in the Seattle area, she is about to have her life changed in radical ways.

Hiding in those leaves after suffering a gunshot wound is Dominic Serranto. He's not only a powerful vampire, he's also a take-no-prisoners Guardian in an endless battle against those of his kind who prey on humans.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Impressions: 'Jane Eyre' Post 1

Because it is one of those touchstone books in my life, I've joined the Jane Eyre Readathon at Laura's Review Bookshelf: Jane Eyre Check in #1 to see if feelings have changed over the years. As a young teen, this was the first swoon-worthy novel I'd found. But with the passage of (a great deal) of time, would I feel the same?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Review: 'The Mistress of Nothing'

By Kate Pullinger
Historical Fiction
January 2011
Touchstone Fiction
ISBN: 978-1-4391-9386-0

Based on the memoirs of Lady Duff Gordon, who exiled herself to Egypt in the 1860s when suffering from consumption, leaving behind her children and husband, THE MISTRESS OF NOTHING is one of those "it could have been great" books. The novel focuses on her maid, Sally Naldrett, who was as enamored of Egypt as her mistress.

But Sally apparently forgot her station, falling in love with an Egyptian man, bearing his child and refusing to follow her former employer's demands once she was discovered. The story then devolves into melodrama.

What one person can mean to another should have been at the heart of this novel, which strangely won Canada's Governor General's Award. But the storytelling is all what might have been, and not realized. The opening sets up expectations that action and introspection will provide a full-bodied reading experience. Sally looks back at the events about to be revealed. There is regret that she is no longer loved by her mistress, although the way events are described it's hard to see that she ever was so regarded. There is acknowledgement that she was never thought of as a human being but, at best, a beloved pet dog. Even using 19th century sensibilities, employer-personal servant politics and feelings could have led to a fascinating novel. Tied to real, documented lives perhaps made this next to impossible.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: 'A Lonely Death'

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read

Open to a random page

Share two teaser sentences from somewhere on that page

Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.
At one pont as he drove eastward, Rutledge had stopped along a road in Hampshire to offer a lift to a woman trudging back to her village with her marketing in her basket. He had needed to hear a human voice, someone who knew nothing of him or his past.
-- A LONELY DEATH, the latest Inspector Rutledge novel by Charles Todd

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review: 'The Weird Sisters'

By Eleanor Brown
January 2011
Amy Einhorn Books (G.P. Putnam's Sons)
ISBN: 978-0-399-15722-6

This is a wonderful book. It is charming, humorous, poignant, sniffly-inducing, heartwarming and not a whiff of saccharine or tweeness. That's brilliant for a debut novel about three sisters, named after Shakespeare characters by their professor father, who return to their small college hometown when their mother is diagnosed with breast cancer.

And here's why this is a wonderful book: Rose (Rosalind), Bean (Bianca) and Cordy (Cordelia) are both alike and different. Their characters' names are reflected in their personalities and stories yet are hardly mere copycats. They do, as the cover copy says, love each other but cannot stand one another. They are rivals and best friends.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: 'The Weird Sisters'

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read

Open to a random page

Share two (2) “teaser†sentences from somewhere on that page

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
Here's mine, posted early so I don't miss the entire day, from Eleanor Brown's charming new novel, THE WEIRD SISTERS:
We did the dishes together and then Bean put on the record, opened the front door wide, and danced on the porch below the yellow light, moths beating anxiously against its warmth. By the end, she had pulled Rose up from the porch swing, and they danced together, breathless and wild, sweating in the chill air.

Review: 'Hate List'

By Jennifer Brown
YA Fiction
Paperback edition October 2010
Little, Brown
ISBN: 978-0-316-04145-4

Valerie Leftman is trying to regain some semblance of normal life. But she's got some things holding her back. Her leg still hurts after she was hurt five months ago. She lost her boyfriend. Her friends aren't happy with her any more. Pretty much everyone hates her. Not even her parents are on her side. She used to have a hate list of people who teased her or her boyfriend, and they found out about it.

They found out about it when her boyfriend, Nick, opened fire inside their high school commons in a Columbine-style massacre before killing himself. Six people, including a popular teacher, died before Nick shot Valerie, wounding her in the leg, and killed himself. Now that the cops have cleared her, her parents and shrink are ready to send her back to the same school. And if her legs would do it, Valerie would gladly run in the opposite direction of that school and just keep going.